Patience. As a writer, it’s one of the most important qualities to have. Why? Publishing is often slow. There are some people who get agents and book deals lightning-fast, but for most, it takes a while. You wait for agents to respond to you when you query, you wait while you’re on submission to publishers, you wait for your editorial letter(s), you wait for your book to finally be released.
Writing often seems like it’s a waiting game.
Beyond all this stuff, though, there’s the most important reason why you need patience: Patience allows you to approach your own writing with diligence. It means that you take your time with revisions and don’t rush into querying. It means that you make your story as clean and perfect as you can before you send it out into the world. And that is absolutely invaluable.
To be clear, I’m not saying that you should write slowly. Writing a novel in ten days is as legitimate as writing a novel in a year. I’m simply saying that you should write (or revise, if you’re a messy drafter) as well as you can. That you should do things properly.
Let me bring you anecdotal evidence of why patience is good, by demonstrating why impatience is bad. When I first began looking into getting an agent (fifteen! Stupid! Disaster! That about sums up the experience), I committed the cardinal sin of querying without having a finished manuscript. Miraculously, my query letter (terrible) garnered a request almost immediately. For a full.
I wrote around 40,000 words in eight days or so (yes, this did nearly kill me), and sent off a crappy first draft version of my manuscript. The agent came back saying that my opening was good, and my concept was good, but the middle was like wading into a bog, my ending weak, and my prose unpolished in several spots.
I’m amazed that I got feedback at all, considering the state of that draft. My impatience had cost me, big time. I re-read the material I’d sent out and was super embarrassed that I’d sent something this terrible out. In fact, I’m kind of embarrassed just writing this – I made a lot of query faux pas, but this was definitely the worst. In case you’re wondering, definitely don’t EVER do something like this.
So how do you remain patient, when writing, or revising, when you really just want to get things moving along? When you want to have written, rather than to write?
I think it’s really quite easy: keep yourself motivated and inspired.
Ways to keep inspired vary between individuals, obviously. Personally, I find that music keeps me inspired. I maintain playlists that grow longer and longer as my novels progress, even though there are usually only one or two songs that I play on repeat when I write.
I also find it really helpful to read work that I find completely blow-my-mind amazing. Doing this makes me thoroughly jealous, because even though the novels, poems or short stories I read are usually nothing like my own (it’s time for me to admit that I will never recreate Pride and Prejudice), it’s just so damn good. And I want my work to be that good. I want it to resonate with readers in the way that my favourite books resonate with me. So I funnel all of that writerly jealousy into patiently and diligently crafting my books.
Others like to draw, search for visual inspiration on sites like tumblr, write with friends to keep motivation levels high, or write poetry about their characters.
Finding a way to be patient with the process of writing and revising is essential. Because when you’re loving every second – well, almost every second, because there are always going to be ups and downs – that you’re writing, you’ll develop your work properly instead of impatiently rushing to type the words, “THE END”.
What are your methods for remaining patient and motivated?
Vahini Naidoo is a YA author and University student from Sydney Australia. Her currently untitled debut novel, en edgy psychological thriller, will be released by Marshall Cavendish in Fall, 2012. She’s represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. You can read more about Vahini on her blog.